New research on cultural information literacy out in Information, Communication & Society

I have a new journal article out in Information, Communication & Society, one of the most prestigious and high-impact journals for research in Information and Communication Studies. The article, titled “Queer Information Literacies: Social and Technological Circulation in the Rural Midwestern United States,” explores the information landscape of rural LGBTQ people. You can read it here. Email me if you don’t have institutional access to it and I’m happy to provide a link for a free download from the publisher.

The article is based off of ethnographic fieldwork with rural LGBTQ people in the Upper Midwestern United States. In it, I document the various information sources, both digital and analog, that rural LGBTQ people use and the relationships between those information sources. I argue that circulation through different kinds of information sources leads to the creation of different understandings of what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ community. This difference in understanding LGBTQ identity and community is particularly impactful in rural communities, who naturally have much smaller populations of LGBTQ people. When these differences in understanding lead to conflict in rural places, it has an outsized impact in those communities.

Through all of this, I propose the concept of queer information literacy: a process through which LGBTQ people find, recognize, share, and create information related to their sexual and gender identities. Queer information literacy reframes information literacy to be seen as a cultural process of coming to understand one’s identity, rather than a process of learning and teaching normally associated with institutions (e.g., colleges and libraries).

I believe that this concept (and the paper more broadly) has a lot to offer research in many fields that deal with information, media, and rurality. Feel free to reach out to me if you’re interested in talking about it. I’m happy to chat more about the paper and my ongoing research with rural LGBTQ people in the Midwest.

Two short papers accepted for DIS 2019

I’m happy to announce that I had two short papers accepted for the 2019 ACM conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS).

The first paper, titled “Participatory Design and the Future of Rural LGBTQ Communities,” documents preliminary results from a series of participatory design workshops. It describes the LGBTQ Futures Project, a collaborative and community-based research project that uses participatory design to understand how lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in rural places experience community and technology. We highlight the resource needs among our participants, how they differ between rural students and non-students, and how rural LGBTQ people envision the future of social technology that is designed explicitly for their needs. You can take a gander at the PDF pre-print here.

The second paper, titled “How the Design of Social Technology Fails Rural America,” is a “provocation” (a unique paper style for this conference) and argues that, unless we abandon growth and scalability as metrics of success in social technologies, we will never be able to appropriately design for rural places. You can see the PDF pre-print here.

Attending iConference 2019

Hey y’all,

I’m looking forward to attending the iConference next week (March 31-April 3) in College Park, Maryland. The iConference is the annual meeting of the iSchools Organization, the collective of schools, colleges, and departments doing work in areas related to information science, library science, informatics, and information technology. I’ll be taking part in the day-long Doctoral Colloquium on Sunday, where I’ll be presenting and getting feedback from peers and faculty mentors on my ongoing dissertation research. I’ll be sticking around through Wednesday to listen to all the great talks and meet friends a new faces from iSchools all around the world, so if you see me, say hi!

How Rural America is Saving Itself

Another think piece on rural America popped up in the New York Times a couple weeks ago. As you’d expect, it painted a picture of rural areas as backwards, behind the times, and unable to catch up or keep up with the needs of a supposedly tech-dominated economy. I wrote a bit of a tweet-storm, which was picked up by some folks over at The Atlantic, who asked me to expand on it for an article on their CityLab site. I was more than happy to oblige.

Read it here: “How Rural America is Saving Itself”

“Rural Computing: Beyond access & infrastructure” workshop at CSCW 2018

Hello all,

I’ve been busy leading the organizing (with Dharma Dailey, Susan Wyche, and Norman Makoto Su) of a workshop being held at CSCW 2018 in Jersey City, NJ on November 4. The workshop, titled “Rural Computing: Beyond access & infrastructure,” is going to be an amazing opportunity to bring together researchers who are currently doing research in and on rural communities and their uses of technology. Head on over to our website (www.ruralhci.info) to check out the agenda and participants (and their papers). We’ll likely be organizing some sort of follow-up activities and/or publication opportunities, so if you are interested in being involved, shoot me an email (jkhardy@umich.edu).

So what is a participatory design workshop?

This blog post is crossposted from my ongoing participatory design project – The LGBTQ Futures Project.

The LGBTQ Futures Project uses a research method that is called participatory design. In our case, the words “participatory” and “design” have multiple meanings. In this blog post, we will walk you through a little bit of the history of participatory design and then outline what these words mean to us. If you are looking for a more thorough treatment of participatory design, see Michael Muller’s book chapter on the topic, “Participatory Design: The Third Space in HCI.”

Participatory design is a research movement that got it’s start in the 1970s in Scandinavia. It started out as part of a labor rights movement that sought to further democratize the workplace by involving workers in designing future work processes. It has since grown into a method that is deployed in a variety of settings in and out of the workplace, with many different populations. We especially appreciate Lucy Suchman’s words, which we first read in Muller’s chapter:

“The agenda in the case of [participatory] design becomes working for the presence of multiple voices not only in knowledge production, but in the production of technologies as knowledges objectified in a particular way.”

We take this quote to mean that participatory design is a way for researchers (and designers) to intentionally take into account varied perspectives, and to question and change the way that knowledge produced from design research is created. In building on this history and respecting the work that went into making this research method what it is, our project looks at both “participatory” and “design” in a few different ways.

First, participatory for us comes through both in the ways that the workshops operate and how our research team and project is constructed. Our workshops are structured in a way so that all participants have opportunities to share, in a safe environment, their experiences and thoughts about the future of technology for LGBTQ people. Participatory for us also comes through in our desire to shine a light on perspectives of people that are rarely, if ever, intentionally heard in the process of creating new and adapting current social technology. Our research team is participatory in that we are made up of people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences in LGBTQ community. We also intentionally are made up of people who either have lived or currently live in the region in which we perform our research.

Second, when most people think of design they think of a designer sitting at a desk in front of a computer working on some advanced software or with a drawing utensil in hand. What we mean when we talk about the word design, is that we are interested in what the future of technology does. Another way to think about this is through “design as inquiry.” Design as inquiry is a way that we as researchers can leverage design to leverage other people’s perspectives (i.e. participatory) and create new knowledge about future perceptions of technology. In other words, we use design as a process through which we ask our workshop participants questions and get them to create mock-ups of future technology that is designed explicitly for their identities.

Participatory design workshops, for us, are the process of intentionally creating space to elicit our participants’ own knowledge of their experiences in order to collectively think about what the future of technology looks like and does for rural LGBTQ people.